Monthly Archives: June 2012

NBA Draft Grades

Last week’s NBA Finals exhibited two differing approaches to building a winning team: the Miami Heat through Free Agency and the Oklahoma City Thunder through the draft. For teams not named the Heat, the draft has been the most effective way to put together a winning roster. Let’s take a look at how each team fared in the draft.

Atlanta Hawks: D

Drafted Players: SG John Jenkins (23), PF Mike Scott (43)

The Hawks were the 5th best three-point shooting team in the league last season, so why they decided to draft a one-dimensional three-point shooter rather than addressing PG depth or rebounding, which were issues last year. Tony Wroten Jr. or Arnett Moultrie could have been better picks here.

Boston Celtics: B-

Drafted Players: PF Jared Sullinger (21), C Fab Melo (22), SF Kris Joseph (51)

Reports earlier this week claimed the Celtics were targeting Royce White, but he didn’t last until the Celtics first pick at 21. Sullinger could be a great pick for them if his health issues aren’t as serious as they’re made out to be. He could be a better version of Glen Davis, who had success with Boston. But again, the medical issues mean the risk of the pick is high. Melo is a big bodied defender and rebounder. He could play a similar role as Kendrick Perkins did for years, but his limited offensive game could hold him back.

Brooklyn Nets: D-

Drafted Players: PG Tyshawn Taylor (41), F Tornike Shengelia (54, from 76ers), PF Ilkan Karaman (57)

The Nets get this low grade for their pre-draft moves than the picks themselves. Trading what eventually became the 6th pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace, who just opted out of his contract, was a terrible and inexcusable trade. As for the draft itself, Taylor has all the skills to be a good NBA player, but his decision making could be worse than Nets’ GM Billy King. The two European picks will likely be stashed overseas and won’t likely make an impact in the NBA.

Charlotte Bobcats: B+

Drafted Players: SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2), G Jeffrey Taylor (31)

MKG is a great pick for the Bobcats and he could really help create a winning culture and infect his teammates with his passion and drive to win. The only drawback is that the Bobcats have no alpha dog on their current roster and that is not a role Kidd-Gilchrist is ready to fill, given his developing offensive game. Not having other solid players around him will reduce MKG’s impact, but he’s the type of player that people want to play with, so he could help attract Free Agents to get those solid players.

Chicago Bulls: A-

Drafted Players: PG Marquis Teague (29)

While Teague is no Derrick Rose, he could help fill the void and weather the storm the Bulls will face in Rose’s absence. And getting him at 29 is great value, as many analysts believed Teague could be a top-10 pick next year. Chicago could have used a shooter in the draft, but Teague could be a valuable backup PG for them for years to come.

Cleveland Cavaliers: A

Drafted Players: SG Dion Waiters (4), C Tyler Zeller (17, from Mavericks)

Dion Waiters going 4th to the Cavs was the draft’s biggest surprise.

Waiters was a surprising pick, but not necessarily a bad one. The quick rise in his stock and higher-than-expected draft position reminds me a lot of Russell Westbrook’s situation back in 2008 and the Thunder look like geniuses for that pick. Waiters gets a lot of comparisons to Dwyane Wade, but I see a lot of Tyreke Evans in his game. They body shape is similar and the strength going to the rim are comparable. Asking Waiters to play SG instead of PG, as Evans was asked to do, will also allow him to be himself more and reach his full potential. His toughness fits well alongside the finesse and quickness of Kyrie Irving. Trading for Zeller was also a nice move. He won’t be a great center, but he can rebound, shoot, and run the floor. At worst he could be a serviceable rotation player.

Dallas Mavericks: C

Drafted Players: SG Jared Cunningham (24, from Cavaliers), C Bernard James (33, from Cavaliers), F Jae Crowder (34, from Cavaliers)

Jason Kidd is a Free Agent and Deron Williams not certain to join the team next year, the Mavs could have used some insurance at the PG spot. Wroten and Teague were still on the board and could have been useful picks for the Mavs. But Cunningham can score of the dribble and Crowder, although undersized, has a high motor and could make a Kenneth Faried type impact for this team. James is already 27, so his age makes him a less valuable commodity.

Denver Nuggets: B-

Drafted Players: SG Evan Fournier (20), SF Quincy Miller (38), C Izzet Turkyilmaz (50)

The Nuggets are already a team full of talented wing players, so being able to keep Fournier overseas keeps their lineup from getting too crowded, especially because Miller could be another wing used in that lineup. Once considering a top-10 talent, concerns about his ACL injury caused him to slide. If he can live up to his potential, he could be great for them. Getting Miller in the 2nd round was really good value. While stashing Fournier is nice, his skills may not translate well to the NBA. A proven player like Sullinger, even with his injury risks, could have had a more immediate impact.

Detroit Pistons: B+

Drafted Players: C Andre Drummond (9), SF Khris Middleton (39), SG Kim English (44)

Andre Drummond and the Pistons could be perfect for one another. Or will this just be a different version of the Darko debacle?

I think Detroit has to be pretty pleased with how the top of the draft went. Outside of Anthony Davis, Drummond was just about the best fit next to Greg Monroe. It will allow Monroe to slide to his more natural PF position and Drummond’s shot blocking skills (just about the only real skills he has right now) will hide Monroe’s defensive shortcomings. But drafting Drummond this high comes with a lot of risk. Right now he’s a very similar player to DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan fell to the 2nd round of his draft due to the same concerns teams have about Drummond. So getting him at 9 is a much higher gamble than the Clippers took with Jordan. Drummond gets a lot of comparisons to Dwight Howard and Kwame Brown as his best and worse case scenarios. Kwame was not nearly the athlete Drummond is, so I feel like Jordan may be a better comparison. If Drummond can develop some low post skills, he could be really scary. But at this point, that’s still a big if.

Golden State Warriors: A

Drafted Players: SF Harrison Barnes (7), C Festus Ezeli (30), F Draymond Green (35), C Ognjen Kuzmic (52)

The Warriors have to be about as happy as the Pistons with their luck. Barnes not only fills a huge need for them at SF, but he also could have been a top-3 pick. For him to slide to 7  is great for the Warriors. Right now his skills are pretty duplicative of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, but if Barnes can improve his ball handling, it would allow him to make better use of him elite athleticism and become a more well-rounded offensive player. Ezeli could be a good replacement for Ekpe Udoh, who the Warriors lost in the Andrew Bogut trade. Getting Green at 35 is also great value, and his diverse skill set could be really useful.

Houston Rockets: B-

Drafted Players: SG Jeremy Lamb (12), SF Royce White (16), PF Terrence Jones (18)

Despite drafting some intriguing players, Houston has to be pretty upset with how Thursday panned out for them. They were making trades and spreading rumors the whole week, hoping to move up in the draft to either pick Drummond or to entice the Magic to trade them Dwight Howard. While that plan didn’t work, the Rockets came out with some players that could hold some trade value. Jeremy Lamb had a great career at UConn but flew under the radar in the draft process due to a high ankle sprain that kept him out of workouts. Royce White, if not for his anxiety, has the talent to be a top-10 pick, and Terrence Jones could also have been a lottery pick if not for some character questions. They could all be good players for the Rockets or be used in a trade to help bring a different good player to Houston.

Indiana Pacers: D

Drafted Players: C Miles Plumlee (26), SG Orlando Johnson (36, from Kings)

The Pacers really botched this draft. Plumlee has impressive athleticism, but that never really translated to production at Duke. With Arnett Moultrie and Marquis Teague still on the board, drafting Plumlee was not the best course of action. Orlando Johnson could be a decent player in the league, but he’ll be stuck behind a pretty deep backcourt in Indiana.

Los Angeles Clippers: F

Drafted Players: PF Furkan Aldemir (53, traded to Rockets)

The Clippers came out of the draft with no players. While they were able to pull off a deal to acquire Lamar Odom from the Mavericks, that wasn’t part of the draft, so I can’t give them credit here.

Los Angeles Lakers: C+

Drafted Players: G Darius Johnson-Odom (55, from Mavericks), C Robert Sacre (60)

I’m not sure either of these players will see significant minutes for the Lakers, but I’m giving LA this grade because of their choice not to trade away Pau Gasol. At least not yet. The trades floating out there included Gasol for Josh Smith (I can’t see how Kobe doesn’t strangle Smith halfway through the season after one too many idiotic three point attempts) or for a top 10 pick. With no real impact players after the top few picks, standing pat with Gasol was a smart move. The Lakers need to wait until they find the right deal and it didn’t come along by draft night.

Memphis Grizzlies: A-

Drafted Players: PG Tony Wroten Jr. (25)

Wroten has the potential to be taller version of Rajon Rondo. If you have the chance to get a player like that at 25, there’s almost no risk, since anyone else you would draft would likely be a marginal player anyways. Great job by Memphis to not only fill a need at PG, but to jump on a golden opportunity.

Miami Heat: D+

Drafted Players: C Justin Hamilton (45, from 76ers)

Typical Heat, refusing to build their team through the draft and leaving it all to Free Agency. Miami initially drafted Arnett Moultrie at 27, which would have been perfect for them, before trading him to Philadelphia. They probably were trying to avoid having to take on a guaranteed contract that comes with all first round picks, and are saving that money to make a run at Ray Allen in Free Agency. While that may end up working out for them, adding Moultrie to Miami’s old and weak frontcourt would have been a smart move.

Milwaukee Bucks: C

Drafted Players: PF John Henson (14), SG Doron Lamb (42)

I’m not really sure how Henson fits into this team. But the Bucks didn’t have a lot of other options. Milwaukee really could have used a center to fill the void created by Andrew Bogut’s departure, but with Drummond and Meyers Leonard off the board, and Tyler Zeller not much of an impact player, they didn’t have much of a choice. Henson’s elite skill is shot blocking, which just so happens to be the same as Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh. Not a bad pick, since Henson was the best available player, but I don’t see him adding anything to this team.

Minnesota Timberwolves: B-

Drafted Players: F Robbie Hummel (58)

While it’s nice to see a player like Hummel get drafted after fighting his way back from so many injuries, I’m not sure if he makes the team in Minnesota. The Wolves’ biggest get from the draft was trading their 18th pick to Houston for Chase Budinger, who will immediately be an upgrade at SG that Minnesota has long needed. His shooting and athleticism will help the T-Wolves tremendously. Since there was no SG at the board at 18 that could have filled that role, this was a solid trade for Minnesota.

New Orleans Hornets: A+

Drafted Players: PF Anthony Davis (1), G Austin Rivers (10), SF Darius Miller (46)

Anthony Davis makes the Hornets the draft’s biggest winners.

Just Davis alone makes this an A+ for the Hornets. He’s going to help that franchise rebound very quickly and strongly from the loss of Chris Paul. I’m skeptical of how well Rivers fits with this team. Generally if you aren’t sure whether to put a P or an S in front of the G for a players’ position, that’s not a good sign. Rivers was drafted as a point guard, but all his skills and his body of work in college suggest he’s really a shooting guard. And with Eric Gordon set to be the SG of the future, that could create issues. If Rivers can buy into coach Monty Williams and be a team player though, the Hornets could end up with two stars from this draft.

New York Knicks: C

Drafted Players: F Kostas Papanikolaou (48)

While Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire aren’t yet considered “aging stars,” their early playoff exit and the dominance of the Heat shows that the Knicks need to get better now if they want to compete. So while Papanikolaou has the best name in the draft and has wowed scouts with his defense, he won’t play in the NBA for a few years. New York really could have used some immediate help from the draft.

Oklahoma City Thunder: A

Drafted Players: F Perry Jones III (28)

I’m really surprised Jones fell this far, but late reports about some knee issues he has may have caused his drop. This is the perfect play for him to land though. Kevin Durant is really the perfect player for Jones to model himself after, given their similar builds and styles of play. Jones doesn’t have KD’s jump shot yet, but could still try to learn how Durant creates his own shot. But the winning culture of the Thunder, as well as Durant’s crazy work ethic, could motivate Jones to have a higher motor and become a more physical player. For the the Thunder to land a player once considered top-5 talent this late is a steal, regardless of the question marks.

Orlando Magic: B

Drafted Players: PF Andrew Nicholson (19), C Kyle O’Quinn (49)

While Nicholson and O’Quinn are both very solid players, I would have liked to see Orlando role the dice on someone with more potential. With Dwight Howard’s time in Orlando all but over, the Magic need to start thinking ahead. So while the players they drafted could both be role players on a playoff team, the Magic may not be a playoff team for much longer.

Philadelphia 76ers: B

Drafted Players: SF Moe Harkless (15), PF Arnett Moultrie (27, from Heat)

The Sixers added two more rotation players to their roster, making them an even deeper team. Harkless could well be Andre Iguodala’s replacement, as Philadelphia has been shopping their star as of late. Moultrie will provide athleticism, rebounding, and a mid-range shot to Philadelphia. No amazing talent here, but two players who could both make an impact.

Phoenix Suns: C-

Drafted Players: PG Kendall Marshall (13)

Steve Nash’s contract is up, so drafting a PG made sense for Phoenix. I’m not sure if Marshall was the best choice, though, especially this high in the draft. While his passing will keep Phoenix’s supporting cast involved, there will be nothing for them to support if Nash leaves. Marshall is no superstar in the making. He has an inconsistent outside shot and his lack of speed will hurt him on both ends of the floor. If they wanted a PG, I would have liked to see the Suns trade down a few spots and get Marshall there or gamble on someone with more potential like Wroten or Teague.

Portland Trailblazers: B

Drafted Players: PG Damian Lillard (6), C Meyers Leonard (11), SG Will Barton (40)

The only thing keeping this from being an A is the question of whether or not these players can compete against NBA caliber competition. Lillard was amazing in his solo workouts, reportedly missing only 2 shots during an entire workout, but he never played against a top 25 team his senior year, so no one knows if he can handle talented defenders. Leonard was also impressive during workouts thanks to his athleticism, but he’s also a high risk project. Both players could be great but they have yet to prove themselves. I love the Barton pick though. He averaged 18 points on 51% shooting and 8 rebounds this year at Memphis. While he’s skinny (6′-6″, 174 pounds), he knows how to play and how to score.

Sacramento Kings: A

Drafted Players: PF Thomas Robinson (5)

Robinson is an excellent fit in the frontcourt next to DeMarcus Cousins. Sacramento is going to make opposing bigs hate playing against them, given their strength and physicality. With the Bobcats convincing the whole world they would take Robinson at #2, for him to fall to the Kings was a welcome surprise in Sac-Town.

San Antonio Spurs: C+

Drafted players: SG Marcus Denmon (59)

When you’re only pick in the draft is the 2nd to last one, it’s hard to make much of an impression. But the Spurs grabbed an interesting player there. Denmon is short for a SG, but he could play a George Hill type role in San Antonio, given his shooting ability and ball security.

Toronto Raptors: B

Drafted Players: SG Terrence Ross (8), F Quincy Acy (37), SF Tomislav Zubcic (56)

Ross is an intriguing prospect. He’s a great shooter, an explosive athlete, and an above average defender. However he struggles handling the ball. If he can improve his dribbling he has all the tools to be a quality shooting guard. Quincy Acy is also a really good pick. He’s not going to contribute a lot offensively, but he has a high motor and can come off the bench to help rebound and block shots.

Utah Jazz: C+

Drafted Players: SF Kevin Murphy (47)

The Jazz got dealt a bad hand with this draft, losing the Warriors pick and their own first rounder. But they made the most of it by drafting Murphy. He’s a good shooter, and that alone could get him a spot on an NBA roster. But he’s also pretty athletic so he could help this Jazz team that could use some shooting and athleticism on the wing.

Washington Wizards: A-

Drafted Players: SG Bradley Beal (3), SF Tomas Satoransky (32)

Beal is the perfect fit for this Wizards team, not only giving them the shooter they so desperately needed, but also filling the starting SG spot. Paired with John Wall, the Wizards should have a great backcourt for years. Washington could have gotten better value in the 2nd round, but the Beal pick alone makes this a win.

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Angels Make Season-Saving Catch In Mike Trout

He looked. He leaped. He caught. It was that simple because Mike Trout made it look that way. The 20-year-old Angels’ center fielder robbed Baltimore’s shortstop J.J. Hardy of a home run in the first inning of today’s game against the Orioles. It was the top play on SportsCenter tonight, but the rookie Trout is no newcomer to being at the top.

Albert Pujols who?

Coming into Wednesday he led the American league in batting average at .344. That’s ahead of Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, and so many other stars. Though that’s not the only thing Trout’s ahead of; he’s ahead of the past, the expectations, and somehow reality.

Last summer the kid was a nobody. At age 19, Trout was called up from the minor leagues to play for the Angels last July. In 40 games, he hit .220. He was drafted only two years earlier as the Angels’ 25th pick in the first round so his struggles were no surprise.

Trout went into spring training this season determined to make the team. But he caught a virus and not only lost 10 pounds but also his dreams of making the opening day roster.

Trout though would make his return sooner rather than later. On April 28th the Angels were reeling at 6-14 and in last place in the division, nine games behind the Texas Rangers. The team made the decision, possibly a season-saving decision, to release the veteran Bobby Abreu and call up Trout again, who was batting .403 in Class AAA Salt Lake.

Since he joined the team, the Angels are 35-19 and only 4.5 games behind the major-league-best Texas Rangers.

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The Halo has been lit up much more frequently since Trout entered the Angels’ starting lineup.

He’s been the catalyst behind the Angels resurrection. As the teams’ leadoff hitter, he has 21 walks, 14 doubles, and 21 steals in 52 games. Move aside Kobe Bryant, the LA M-V-P chants belong to Mike Trout now.

Only the Boston Red Sox’s Fred Lynn in 1975 and the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 won Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. Trout has the chance to join them in this elite category.

Still Lynn was 23 at the time and Ichiro was 28. Trout is 20; heck he’s not even legally old enough to drink. (So don’t ask him to celebrate his accomplishments with a beer because that’s a clown question bro)

His speed is startling and he’s football-player-like-build adds to his durability. Baseball analysts marvel at his swing, his mechanics, and his character. They can’t find any holes in his game. (In other breaking news, twenty-nine major league general managers were put on suicide watch as of Wednesday.)

Trout, from Millville, New Jersey, is known as the ‘Mickey Mantle of Millville’, but quietly baseball analysts have murmured his ceiling may be Mickey Mantle. Most baseball general managers agree they wouldn’t trade Trout one-for-one for any player in the league.

It’s going to be Mike Trout’s league for the next decade or so. If you can believe it, it’s his league now.

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Hawks pursuing Lakers’ Pau Gasol

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Taking A Look Back At The Stellar 2003 NBA Draft

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It’s been nine years to the date, June 26, 2003, from one of the best NBA drafts of all time. Here’s a look at the top nine players from that draft, in the order they were drafted, including career updates and what scouts/analysts thought of them going into the draft.

No. 1, Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James

The expectations were sky high for James from the get-go as ‘The Next Jordan’ labels started in middle school. One NBA Scout called him the “Best high school player I’ve ever seen. He is a freak.” after only his sophomore season in high school. James has lived up to the hype, with three NBA regular season MVP’s, six All-NBA First team selections, and 32 triple doubles, fourth all time, so far.

No. 3, Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony

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Not sure if Carmelo’s a freshman in college or a 6th grader…

Going into the draft, NBA Scouts were drooling over Anthony’s scoring ability. He hasn’t let them down, developing into possibly the NBA’s purest scorer. Scouts did call him out for his perimeter defense pre-draft, and nine years later, Melo hasn’t improved much. Still, Anthony figures to have a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame, even if he doesn’t win an NBA Championship in his career.

No. 4, Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh

NBA draft analysts thought the talent pool went very thin after the top three, but many players selected fourth or after went onto become NBA All-Stars like Chris Bosh. He has developed into a 20-10 player, and with another championship or two, should be a Hall of Famer.

No. 5, Miami Heat – Dwayne Wade

Scouts thought Wade was too short (6-4) to play shooting guard in the NBA. Pat Riley wasn’t sure on Wade, and wanted Chris Kaman on draft night. Wisely though, he opened up the decision to a vote by his scouting staff and one name kept coming up: Dwayne Wade. So Miami surprised many and took Wade early at No. 5. (projected to go as early as No. 8) Wade led Miami to the 2005 NBA Championship in his third year in league, and won NBA Finals MVP that year.

No. 6, Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Kaman

Just the Clippers’ luck, they pick right after four future Hall of Famers are selected. Still Kaman developed into a solid NBA big man with career averages of 11.9 points per game and 8.3 points per game, with one All-Star appearance.

No. 7, Chicago Bulls – Kirk Hinrich

ESPN’s Jay Bilas listed Kirk Hinrich above Dwayne Wade in his ‘Best Players Available’ list before the draft. So much for that. Hinrich though has developed into a solid point guard and exactly what he said he would be when EA Sports asked him, “The team that drafts you – what are they going to get?” before the draft.

 “They’re going to get a hard worker, a competitor, and a guy that’s going to come in and try to immediately help their team. A total team player who is very coachable and just cares about one thing, and that’s winning,” Hinrich said.

Hinrich has career averages of 12.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 37.8% three point percentage and would be a good veteran free agent pick up for many teams this offseason.

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Somewhere Mark Jackson was caught saying, “Mama, there goes that man!”

No. 18, New Orleans Hornets – David West

ESPN’s Chad Ford gave the Hornets a ‘C+’ in his draft day grades primarily for this pick. West though was a draft day steal at No. 18. He played the role of Chris Paul’s sidekick to perfection when New Orleans earned the No. 2 seed in the West. In nine seasons, he has made two All-Star games and has career averages of 16 ppg and 7.2 rpg.

No. 29, Dallas Mavericks – Josh Howard

The Mavericks hit big when they landed Howard at No. 29, who was talented enough to go much higher. From 2005 – 2009, he averaged over 16 ppg, made an All-Star appearance, and helped Dallas make an NBA Finals run.

No. 47, Utah Jazz – Mo Williams

Most second round draft picks are out of the league in a few years. Williams was an absolute steal at No. 47 who no one saw coming. He has developed into a solid point guard so far, with an All-Star appearance and career averages of 13.8 ppg and 4.9 apg.

Honorable Mentions:      

No. 8, Milwaukee Bucks – T.J. Ford, No. 21, Atlanta Hawks – Boris Diaw, No. 27, Memphis Grizzlies (traded to Boston Celtics) – Kendrick Perkins, No. 28, San Antonio Spurs (traded to Phoenix Suns) – Leandro Barbosa, No. 31, Cleveland Cavaliers – Jason Kapono

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NBA Mock Draft

Just a few days removed from the conclusion of the NBA Finals and the draft is already just two days away. Gotta love the shortened season.

Just a week separates the biggest day for the leagues best teams and the biggest one for its worst. But one good pick could catapult some teams in the lottery into the playoffs. Here’s a look at how I think the first round of Thursday’s draft will play out.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky 

A pretty obvious pick for the Hornets. The recent trade of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza will allow New Orleans cap room to re-sign Eric Gordon and could also allow them to add another Free Agent to help with the rebuilding project. Davis will be the centerpiece of this team for years and the Hornets could be back in playoff contention in just a year or two.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas 

This pick is tough to project, as there is no clear cut second-best player in the draft. For this reason Charlotte has been looking to trade this pick for some young talent. Assuming they keep the pick, Robinson is a safe pick to make. While he’s super athletic and a great rebounder, a lot of scouts don’t seem too optimistic about his upside. Even if he doesn’t exhibit a lot of growth in the NBA, the Bobcats will still get an above-average starting big man with this pick.

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida 

Beal would be the perfect backcourt complement to John Wall. While Wall is the slashing passer, Beal is a knockdown three-point shooter who could really help the Wizards space the floor. With the addition of Okafor at center and Ariza at small forward, and Nene playing power forward, Washington has a decent starting five to build around.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky 

Dan Gilbert failed in his promise to bring Cleveland a title before LeBron won, but drafting MKG could help boost the Cavs one step closer to the playoffs. Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest skill is just what the Cavs need: he is a winner. His desire to win makes him one of the toughest competitors and a nightmare on defense.

5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina 

In many respects Barnes is the perfect player for the Kings and in many he’s the opposite. For a team that has struggled with immaturity, mainly from DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, Barnes could really provide the team an emotion stability that could be important to help Sacramento’s young talent make the most of that talent. However Barnes’ skill set duplicates some of the team’s problems. He loves to shoot. Unfortunately, so do Evans, Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Freddette, Donte Green, and John Salmons. Will there be enough shots left for Barnes to make his mark?

6. Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State 

The Blazers are in a tough spot here. Andre Drummond is still on the board and he has the athletic ability to be a terrific center. But the last time Portland drafted a center with potential and question marks, things didn’t turn out too well. Then again, passing on an elite talent that could provide production at the center spot that Greg Oden couldn’t stay healthy enough to do could be an even bigger mistake.

Ultimately I think the Blazers play it safe with Lillard. He has some question marks of his own, having not faced elite competition (his refusal to take part in group workouts hasn’t helped answer those questions), but he is a much more complete prospect at this point. And since Portland is in a “retooling” faze rather than full blown rebuilding, they can’t afford to wait a few years for Drummond to produce.

7. Golden State Warriors: Andre Drummond, C, UConn 

The Warriors are also in a tough spot here. They could draft Drummond and hope he develops behind two talented bigs in David Lee and Andrew Bogut. But given Golden State’s history of big men who become busts, that could scare them off.

The Dubs could also go with Dion Waiters, a slashing shooting guard compared to a middle class man’s (is that a phrase? It is now) Dwyane Wade, to replace the role Monta Ellis had. However, the Steph Curry/Ellis backcourt didn’t work. Plus, the Warriors drafted their 2 guard of the future – Klay Thompson – last year. GM Bob Myers has said the team is just hoping to stockpile “assets”  which would give them pieces to either develop or trade. Ultimately, Drummond’s potential will give him trade value even if he hasn’t developed, and he could yield the bigger return for Warriors – through trade or development.

8. Toronto Raptors: Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse 

Toronto has a bit of a bad reputation for being a “soft” team, stemming perhaps from their center, Andrea Bargnani, who prefers to launch threes than fight for rebounds. But last year’s pick, Jonas Valanciunas, is coming this year and he projects to be a solid center. Drafting Waiters could help that problem even further, adding toughness on the perimeter. He has been described as a “bulldog” and while his style of play – driver and not a great outside shooter – seems duplicative of Demar DeRozan, Waiters has the upside to be a contributor beyond just dunk contests.

9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, PF, North Carolina 

Detroit’s main issue they hoped to address in the draft was shot blocking and rebounding, and given Drummond’s uncertainty, he could easily slip this far and provide a perfect solution for Detroit. In this case, the Pistons will have to settle for Henson, who provides both blocking and rebounding. However his rail thin frame won’t allow Detroit to slide Greg Monroe over to PF. Not the perfect fit, but Henson can hit a mid range shot, and help hide Monroe’s struggles on defense.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina 

Marshall certainly isn’t the flashiest of players, given his lack of speed, athleticism, or shooting touch. But the kid can pass the ball, and that’s exactly what the Hornets need. He can help with Anthony Davis’ development by giving him the ball in positions to succeed and the Hornets could run some alley oop plays much as Kentucky was so successful doing. Marshall’s defensive struggles could easily be masked by Davis’ stifling help defense and shot blocking.

11. Portland Trailblazers: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina 

Three Tarheels in a row! Again, Portland is looking for some immediate help in the draft to take full advantage of LaMarcus Aldridge while he’s still in his prime. Zeller has limited upside, after four years of college, but he did improve significantly in his final two years, so he might still have room to grow. Regardless, Zeller will be able to contribute immediately and could help the Blazers make a playoff push next year. He’ll bring added size and rebounding to Portland’s frontcourt, as well as a solid mid range shot and excellent speed for his size.

12. Milwaukee Bucks: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois 

Having dealt Andrew Bogut, the Bucks now have a glaring hole in the middle. Leonard is incredibly athletic and would bring a different look at that position than Bogut did. However he is still raw offensively, so Milwaukee shouldn’t expect him to contribute immediately. But adding an athletic center to a young athletic team that also features Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could bring the Bucks a lot of highlights, if not wins.

13. Phoenix Suns: Austin Rivers, PG/SG, Duke

With Nash’s contract having expired, the Suns could likely need a new playmaker in the backcourt. Rivers is certainly no Steve Nash. While Nash looked to get his teammates involved, Rivers does the opposite, looking to create for himself and score. But he certainly does it well. Rivers is a bit of a concern in that he lacks the size and athleticism of a shooting guard, but does not possess the pass first mentality of a point guard. Either way, he has star potential thanks to his killer crossover and could be the face of the franchise as the Steve Nash era comes to a close in Phoenix.

14. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn 

The Rockets have been at a crossroads for several years. They can never quite get good enough to be a legitimate contender, but can never be bad enough to get a high enough draft pick to lift them to the next level. So while they already have a talented shooting guard in Kevin Martin, the Rockets at this point just need to take the best player available and stock pile assets. Lamb has a similar game to Martin and could make him expendable in a trade.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Ross, SG, Washington 

Three-point shooting has been the Achilles Heel of the Sixers for a while now, but drafting Ross could change that. Although he was dumb enough to compare himself to the ever-enigmatic JR Smith, Ross could still help Philly improve. He has deep range on his jumper and fits in well with the 76ers athletic style of play, being quite the leaper himself. Like Smith, though, his shot selection can be atrocious at times and his ball handling needs work. Ross is still a terrific offensive player and could contribute early on for Philadelphia.

16. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky 

Jones is an intriguing talent, possessing the skills to play both inside and out. The question is, however, is he good enough at either to be able to take advantage of it in the NBA. He has a decent three-point shot, but it’s inconsistent. He’s a good ball handler and passer, but is he quick enough to get past people? And his strength could make him dominant in the post, but he seems to prefer to drift by the perimeter. Despite the questions, Jones is talented, and given that the Rockets have the 14th and 18th picks as well, they can afford to reach a bit.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Perry Jones III, SF/PF, Baylor 

Jones might just be the biggest enigma of the draft. He stuns scouts with his athleticism and versatility one minute, then scares them off with inconsistent outside shot, guard’s mentality, and lack of toughness the next. Giving him a chance to sit behind one of the league’s greatest inside-out forwards in Dirk Nowitzki could be great for Jones. Jones is no where near the same shooter Dirk is, but can still be given time to develop by being on a playoff team where the pressure for him to contribute isn’t on him from the start.

18. Houston Rockets: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State 

The Rockets traded Chase Budinger to Minnesota for this pick, and it appears the Rockets are stock piling first round picks in the hopes of trying to package them in a trade, perhaps for Dwight Howard. Josh Smith is said to be a fall back option for the Rockets.

If they keep all three picks, however, Moultrie coud be their guy here. He could easily be this year’s Kenneth Faried, given his high rebound numbers in college and his athleticism. But while Moultrie is more skilled than Faried, he lacks the “Manimal’s” energy and motor. Still, Moultrie could be a solid rotation big for a playoff team.

19. Orlando Magic: Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s 

Orlando has to know that Dwight Howard is not going to stick around, so they might as well draft for potential since the Magic most likely won’t be contending in the next few years. Harkless can jump, and at this point in the draft if there is someone who is 6′-9″ and has athleticism he tends to get drafted, even if the rest of his game is lacking. That’s basically the case with Harkless. He can dunk, rebound, and block shots thanks to his athleticism, but needs to develop basically everything else. But if he does round his game out, that skill combined with his athleticism could make him a good player.

20. Denver Nuggets: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State 

Sullinger, once considered a top-10 talent, is expecte to drop on draft night after having his back red-flagged medically. He is also undersized and not a great athlete for the PF position. The last person with those 3 criteria to fall in a draft was DaJuan Blair and he’s proven to be a steal for the Spurs. Sullinger knows how to rebound, can hit a mid-range shot, and can score in the post (as long as his defender isn’t too tall or athletic). I think, worst case scenario, Sullinger could be a Glen Davis type player for the Nuggets.

21. Boston Celtics: Royce White, SF, Iowa State 

The Celtics have reportedly promised this pick to White and he has pulled out his remaining workouts and interviews. And for a player with White’s question marks, not having the opportunity to talk with him could scare teams from drafting him. While being one of the draft’s most intriguing players, given his combination of size and passing skills, White suffers from Anxiety Disorder. This results in him having difficulty flying, which is kind of a big deal in the NBA. But Boston could be the perfect place for White to thrive if he overcomes his mental obstacles. Paul Pierce’s career is heading towards its last stages and he could be a great model for White to develop his scoring game around.

22. Boston Celtics: Fab Melo, C, Syracuse 

Boston is at a tough place. They just came within 1 win of the NBA Finals, but might already need to shift to rebuilding mode. Kevin Garnett has been mulling retirement, Ray Allen has expressed interest in taking his talents to South Beach and playing for the Miam Heat, and it seems the Big 3 will be going their separate ways. So do the Celtics draft for potential or NBA readiness for one final title push?

Drafting Melo could be a compromise. He’s a bit of a project offensively, but he has a lot of upside. However he is already a great interior defender and could bring Boston the same qualities they had in Kendrick Perkins.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington 

Atlanta has been cursed at PG ever since skipping over both Deron Williams and Chris Paul to instead draft Marvin Williams. Jeff Teague has been decent for them, but could use an upgrade. Wroten has a chance to be a really special given his height (6′-6″), athleticism, and passing ability. However he cannot hit an outside shot to save his life and has a reputation of being a terrible teammate. But given Wroten’s potential to be a taller version of Rajon Rondo, the Hawks need to roll the dice on this pick.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure 

Nicholson is a big who can really shoot from the outside. He draws a lot of comparisons to David West, but also has some similarities to the Cavs’ Antawn Jamison. Nicholson has been pegged as a better defender than Jamison, though, and given Jamison’s age, Nicholson could be his replacement. With Tristan Thompson looking to be Cleveland’s starting PF for the future, Nicholson could provide a different style of play off the bench.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Miles Plumlee, PF, Duke 

The Grizzlies need to add more athleticism in their front court. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are great players, but both play below the rim. Plumlee in 7 feet tall and posted some ridiculous vertical leap numbers and the draft combine. He’s a raw player, but he can be a great energy guy for Memphis.

26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky 

Drafting Teague, an Indiana native, would give the Pacers flexibility to try to deal Darren Collison. Collison hasn’t produced for the Pacers like he did his one year in New Orleans, but still has trade value. Teague could share the PG spot with George Hill and has the quickness to be a decent player in the league.

27. Miami Heat: Draymond Green, SF/PF, Michigan State 

Miami won the title, but still needs to majorly upgrade their bench, particularly in the front court. Green could contribute immediately for Miami with his post scoring, passing, outside shot, and rebounding.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle O’Quinn, C, Norfolk St. 

Kendrick Perkins hasn’t been a huge difference maker for OKC and at the very least, the Thunder could upgrade their front court depth with this pick. O’Quinn is a solid rebounder and shot blocker and can also contribute offensively (which can’t be said for Perkins), hitting some mid-range shots.

29. Chicago Bulls: Will Barton, SG, Memphis 

With Rose on the shelf for much of next year, Chicago will need someone to fill the perimeter scoring vacancy. They might address that need in free agency, but Barton could also alleviate the pain. He is a tremendous scorer who has been flying under the radar in the draft process. While he could certainly put on a few pounds (he weighs just 174 lbs. and is 6′-6″), Barton can shoot and is great at driving to the basket. Once Rose returns, he could provide scoring from the SG spot that has been missing since Ben Gordon left.

30. Golden State Warriors: Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor 

If Miller falls this far, Golden State would be really excited. SF is the position they need the most help at, and Miller was considered to be a top-10 pick had he returned to Baylor for another year. Miller is still recovering from an ACL injury and didn’t impress scouts with his diminished athleticism. But he is big and can score from anywhere on the court. He could be great value for this pick.

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Euro 2012’s Final Four

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Lakers Executive Jim Buss: Major Moves ‘Unlikely’ – Wait, What?

“Very good,” Jim Buss, the Lakers’ primary decision maker, said when asked what are the chances the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum to start the upcoming NBA season.

Come again? Has Jim Buss been living under a rock for the past year and a half?

In the their last two playoff appearances, the Lakers have only won one second round playoff game en route to back-to-back early exits.

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Is Jim Buss putting an end to Lakers fan’s daily “Gasol for (blank)” trade fantasies?

Buss isn’t exactly crazy though. He’s sees the talent on floor we all see. The Lakers Big Three is talented enough to play with any NBA team’s Big Three, including the Thunder’s young tandem and the Heat’s superstar trio.

Yet that’s only when Gasol asserts himself, Bynum focuses in, and Bryant shows a deeper trust in his teammates.

It’s been two years and the Lakers’ haven’t put this all together.

For a franchise whose goal is to win the NBA Championship every year, anything less is a failure.

Coming off consecutive disappearing acts in the second round, Gasol appears to be the ‘fall guy’ for these shortcomings. Once starring in the role of Robin to Kobe’s Batman, the Spainard appears to have relinquished that role to an ascending Bynum.

Though Bynum has maturity issues and an history of injuries, his upside is sky high. Trading Gasol is the best option for the Lakers, preferably for an elite point guard like Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo.

Houston would be the most likely destination for Gasol because Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey has long chased after the 31 year old and his unique skill set.

Boston, with the possible retirement of Kevin Garnett, and Philadelphia, with Elton Brand’s lack of production, could be other potential suitors for Gasol.

Instead Buss and the Lakers will strive for continuity this offseason and a few minor splashes.

“We will try to sign (Ramon) Sessions when the rules allow beginning in July…and improve the bench,” Buss said on the Lakers’ offseason plans.

Assuming the Lakers don’t land an elite point guard in a blockbuster trade, Sessions may be the best option at point guard.

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The days of Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, and Sasha Vujacic coming off the bench seem pretty grand right now for Lakers fans….

Under the current CBA and the Lakers’ huge salary commitment to Bryant, Bynum and Gasol, their financial flexibility is limited. The team will only have a mini-mid-level exception for $3 million a year over two years to offer. Point guards in this salary range could be Raymond Felton and Kirk Hinrich.

If Session’s asking price goes too high, the Lakers could turn to Hinrich. He plays solid defense and can shoot three pointers, hitting 37.8% for his career. Health could be factor though as Hinrich has played 48, 48 and 24 games in the last three seasons, respectively.

Yet the biggest upgrade needs to be in the bench. Last season, the Lakers’ bench ranked dead last in the NBA in scoring. This lies in stark contrast to the Lakers’ two championship years, 2009 and 2010, where their bench was consistently one of the best in the NBA.

The Lakers need bench players who can play solid defense and hit a few three point shots a game to keep defenses from crowding Gasol and Bynum and relieve some of the scoring load off of Bryant.

Though it will have to be a Mike Miller – Miami Heat sort of deal, where a player will choose to come to a contender for the veteran’s minimum because of the Lakers’ cap space issues.

For the Lakers, this offseason will be a telling one and with Bryant’s prime playing days receding faster than LeBron James’ hairline, Buss needs to take a more aggressive approach to building a title team.

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